The Superbike World Championship reaches its penultimate round this weekend and the first blow was struck by hometown hero Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing) who took his official RSV4 Factory Aprilia to the top of the first qualifying session, 0.386 seconds ahead of Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team).
Guintoli’s best lap was a 1’38.709 was set on a track with a dry and increasingly grippy line after drops of rain were reported early in the session, but came to nothing much.
Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet) made a good job of the not-yet-perfect track conditions to go third, one up on committed local rider Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki).
Second placed rider in the championship Eugene Laverty took his official Aprilia to fifth, ahead of privateer and Laguna Seca podium rider Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Aprilia).
Stand-in rider for the injured Fixi Crescent Suzuki regular Leon Camier, Vincent Phillipe, slotted in seventh on day one, using his local knowledge to the maximum.
Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet), Michel Fabrizio (Pata Honda World Superbike) and Ducati Alstare stand-in rider Michele Pirro rounded out a unique top ten after many regular riders had to call off through injury.
Leon Haslam placed 12th. Final qualifying and Superpole, as usual, will take place on Saturday with both races scheduled for Sunday.